The Climate Nightmare is Here

My experiences aren’t data, but I can tell you that San Antonio has gotten more tropical over the past 10 years. When I moved here, we had 60+ days of 100+ (F) degree temps and the current mayor made his chops securing SA water rights for the next 50 years as a city councilman. Now it’s cloudy, rainy, and my grass looks f-in fantastic.

Property values in California will probably decline and become affordable. I may be able to pick up a nice beachside vacation home.

Since this year’s weather is climate according to some people Denver is having one of the wettest years on record and while we’ve had 5 of the last 100 100-degree days (total number measured since 187x) this year the weather has been really nice. I could totally keep this trend going.

More of Canada and northern US state will become farmable possibly leading to a boom in crop production since there is much more water in Canada.

Florida will be underwater so the US won’t look like it has a droopy penus any more

Sad days ahead.

Excellent analysis. Here’s a recent study labeling today’s conditions a “megadrought”: Large contribution from anthropogenic warming to an emerging North American megadrought | Science

From the abstract:

Anthropogenic trends in temperature, relative humidity, and precipitation estimated from 31 climate models account for 46% (model interquartiles of 34 to 103%) of the 2000–2018 drought severity, pushing an otherwise moderate drought onto a trajectory comparable to the worst SWNA megadroughts since 800 CE.

(Of course, deniers might say, “Well there you go – there was another megadrought in 800 CE, and carbon emissions didn’t cause that one!” Idiots gonna idiot.)

Previous megadroughts lasted decades, and western reservoir water levels are already at record lows. Maintaining civilization in Nevada, southern California and elsewhere could get a lot more expensive and challenging in the next few years.

I suspect we could open a new “The Climate Zone” forum here and have plenty to talk about.

Oh yeah, Climate change does not always mean change for the worse. It just usually does.

The temps for the shore are remaining quite tolerable, prices in beachside areas are going up very fast.

I think you’re right.

Ah, the old saw about how if past predictions were supposedly wrong, current ones must also be. As it happens, there is nothing in the science of in Silent Spring (which was largely focused on the environmental danger of dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane), and the larger issues of pesticide overuse and fertilizer runoff are very real problems that are recognized and studied today as material harms which can directly be observed in California’s Imperial Valley, exacerbated by the evaporation of the Salton Sea which concentrates pollutants.

The predictions made by Paul (and Anne) Ehrlich did not come to pass because they neglected to forecast increases in crop yields from the ‘Green Revolution’; however, those yields came at the expense of unsustainable use of water sources and synthesis of fertilizers from natural gas (the Haber-Bosch process). In fact, we’ve seen increases in moderate and extreme food insecurity worldwide from the early 'Nineties onward, which is something you may not have noticed if you are a citizen of a developed nation but which world leaders and the US Department of Defense have highlighted as national security threats. The collapse of the northwest Atlantic Cod fishery is a harbinger of things to come in terms of mismanagement and overuse of resources. Food insecurity is a major concern and nobody is expecting it to get better because the climate is warming.

I’m curious as to which changes you think won’t be bad, because essentially any long term shift in mean global temperature is going to have significantly detrimental effects. The notion that a warmer climate will just shift agriculture further north is a trite and superficial claim that ignores disruptions to the hydrological cycle and increase in extreme weather events. It might seem great that the Siberian tundra is warming up so we can plant wheat on it until you realize that the heating has caused it to dry out to the point of sustaining unprecedented fires, and notwithstanding climate forcing feedback events from the release of sequestered carbon. I don’t know; maybe you think it is a good thing that forests are burning down and not regrowing, but the vast majority of ecologists think that it is kind of bad in the same way that water is a little wet.

This notion that we can live in some kind of negotiated balance with climate change is farcical; even setting aside the fact that we will not see the true outcome of long term climate changes until it is far too late to reverse them, the idea that we can calculate some kind of balance of profits versus harms when it comes to the mass dislocation of populations in the tropics and subtropics, the desertification of ‘breadbasket’ agricultural regions, and extinction of keystone species of which we can only make gross estimates of the long term impact make any kind of tradeoff analysis risible. This is just another “the market will correct for changes” fallacy that fails to recognize that markets are reactive, not predictive, and there is no inherent check or negative feedback on trends that grow at geometric rates. In other words, it is like negotiating with a tiger; you can say whatever you want, but if that tiger wants your leg for dinner your only choice is “left or right”.

It is hardly “Chicken Little” to express concern about what can be literally characterized as the sky falling, because an increase in mean global temperature of >4 ℃ will result in whole swaths of the planet becoming essentially uninhabitable, and those areas contain far more than half of the world’s population which is suppose will just have to fuck off and die because developed nations are for sure not interested in mass immigration. And everything that we are directly observing right now in terms of extreme weather events is very much in line with the “much worse than expected” climate scenarios. But I guess some totally unexpected and unknown mechanism could spontaneously occur which would reverse all of the ocean and atmospheric heating. I also suppose that Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny could be real, but there doesn’t seem to be much evidence to support that.

Stranger

I don’t know; I find these discussions kind of exhausting because they almost inevitably come to be dominated by people who assume that their “both sides have good points” arguments have objective validity regardless of evidence and well-founded science. People who won’t look at an equation much less bother themselves to have a basic understanding of non-equilibrium thermodynamics want undeniable “proof” that climate change is occurring which they can ‘understand’, and then reflexively dismiss anything that doesn’t match the talking points produced by the same political think tanks that worked tirelessly to convince the public that tobacco doesn’t cause cancer and emphysema and that tetraethyl lead is harmless. It is one thing to have a rational discussion about what the science of climatology and systems ecology can project with a certain degree of statistical confidence and what is speculative, but most people don’t actually want to discuss the science; they want to address their ‘feelings’ and political beliefs as they apply to interpretation of data, which is like making a cake out of cotton candy.

Stranger

Just remember that Lytton, BC, which had a high of 122 is nearly 8 degrees further north than northern Indiana.

A great analogy I heard once in response to the “[extreme weather events] have happened before” argument is that a warming climate is to the weather what steroids are to a baseball player. You can’t point to any single home run as proof that a player is using steroids, after all baseball players have hit home runs before steroids were a thing. But if you look at a player’s stats, it’s plainly obvious that players who take steroids hit home runs with much greater frequency than they did before the steroid era. Likewise while no single heatwave (or other extreme weather) is proof of climate change on its own, statistically they are happening much more frequently than they used to.

Again, this whole excluded middle problem.

I didn’t say there were no problems with climate change. I think it is the most important topic on the world stage to be addressed. There is going to be pain.

What I said was that the over-the-top predictions in the OP are nonsense, just like the most egregious predictions from Silent Spring and the Ehrlichs. It’s as you said: they didn’t into account our own reactions.

The media loves bad news and a couple of your examples go along with it. Did you know that there is evidence that cod stocks are making a comeback?. (See here as well.) You cite food security as a growing problem since the 90’s and yet world hunger (as measured by undernourishment) has gone down from 28% in 1972 to 11% world-wide with expectations that it will continue to go down, albeit slowly. There is the realistic possibility of ending it. So while I understand your point I think there is evidence that things actually get better.

Again, I’m not saying there will be no problems. There will be, and as always it will be the poor that suffer the most. I take issue with the OP who is predicting wide-scale collapse. I believe that we will make changes and create programs that will mitigate the worst. It won’t take Santa Claus to do it, either; we’ve done it before.

Yes, it would. Too much rain causes flooding. It also causes loss of crops, due not only to flooding, but also to preventing fieldwork, to increased disease pressure, and to lack of sunshine needed to cause ripening.

It could. It could also open up new avenues for different crops or other enterprises. If one believes that all change is bad then, yes, climate change is bad. I do not believe all change is bad.

The problem isn’t just more rain and the occasional flood; it’s also the fact that such changes are too abrupt and overwhelming to respond to in terms of building an infrastructure that can contain climate change’s worst effects.

Do you believe that there is no change that can be bad?

Climate change is not a political issue despite the desire on the right to politicize it. There is not an “excluded middle problem”, where “both sides”, pro and con, have valid points of view with the reality being somewhere in the middle. There isn’t a question of whether it is primarily due to anthropogenically released carbon dioxide. It is statistically unlikely that the current heating trend is random fluctuation or that the last several years of record-breaking global mean temperature and greater frequency of extreme weather events are not reflective of a long term trend. This isn’t something we can negotiate with the planet, or push off until later when magic pixie dust machines will reverse carbon dioxide release and heating. Even if we could magically extract all of the excess atmospheric carbon dioxide from the atmosphere today, the additional ocean heat content, destruction of forests and wetlands due to higher temperatures would have ramifications for decades.

Whether the o.p. is being hyperbolic in projecting the collapse of the United States or not (of which other factors may have greater impact), global climate change has had measurable, statistically demonstrable adverse effects. Cherrypicking “nuh-huh” examples based upon local conditions and ignoring the massive amount of correlative data isn’t ‘reasonable’ or being ‘moderate’; it is deliberate, determined ignorance. At this point, it is no longer a question of whether climate change is occurring but rather which version of bad it will be, and the current evidence tracks well with the “much worse”; looking, for instance, at rates of loss of seasonal and permanent Arctic ice extent, we are well on track for the RCP6.0 projection and potentially for RCP8.5, which is a difference between “disastrous” and “catastrophic”.

Stranger

I’m going to use your comment as the basis of my response, but I’m not singling you out in particular because this is quite a common refrain. @Stranger_On_A_Train has already addressed this quite well, and my basic observation is that while philosophically not all change is bad, what is unquestionably bad is relying on trite generalities instead of sound science. What the science is telling us is that unnaturally rapid forcing of the global climate – orders of magnitude faster than anything normally seen in nature – and consequent rapid changes to major ecosystems, hydrological systems, and large-scale oceanic and atmospheric circulation systems, are going to be almost universally bad. Even nominally beneficial warming of normally colder areas like northern Canada may not be very productive because the benefits of potentially improved crop yields are very likely to be outweighed by things like more extreme weather, more frequent floods, megadroughts, or wildfires, not to mention the accelerated northward migration of invasive species and new crop diseases.

Again, @Stranger_On_A_Train has covered this well. Yes, it’s statistical; the basic concept is that one should not attribute any one particular extreme weather event to climate change, but statistically one is very well justified in attributing to climate change an overall long-term increase in both the frequency and the energy or extent of extreme weather events. I don’t know offhand what specific studies those particular quantitative claims are based on, but I will say that in general we have a pretty good idea of how the climate responds to GHG forcing. We know this from a combination of well-tuned suites of climate models, observational data, and in many cases from paleoclimate reconstructions of ancient climate changes. Any sort of quantitative statement like the one you quoted is going to have implicit error bars and is subject to future refinement, but it’s based on sound science and most of these projections have high confidence levels.

Where have all the Praying Mantis’ gone? Up til about 5 years ago, we had a yard full of them. They loved to hang out on our french doors and eat bugs that were attracted to the light. I only saw a few last year and none this year. The weather is the only thing that has changed.

<sigh> I have said multiple times that much of climate change will cause problems. I even said it’s the most important problem we face on the world stage.